Baguio honors war liberators Sunday

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Friday, April 25, 2014


A GRATEFUL city will formally honor Sunday morning the Filipino and American war heroes who liberated Baguio City 69 years ago today through a flower ceremony and program at the Veterans Park along Harrison Rd.

Major General Oscar Lopez, superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy, the country's top military school, will deliver the main message at the rites to be attended by surviving members of the 66th Infantry and other war veterans, their Women’s Auxiliary, their families, city officials, military and police officers, boy and girl scouts.

Ceremonies will open at 8:20 a.m. with the “March with Heroes” from Calderon St., the short street branching out of Session Rd. to the veterans park for the wreath-laying ceremony.

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The veterans will be headed by Santiao Pitas, vice-commander of the United States Armed Forces in the Philippines-Northern Luzon, and Colonel Napoleon Gojo in laying their wreath before the memorial pylon at the center of the park.

They will be followed by the city’s floral offering through Mayor Mauricio Domogan, Representative Nicasio Aliping Jr., city councilors and barangay chairperson Helen Medina of Barangay Harrison-Carantes, which has territorial jurisdiction over the park.

An added feature will be a reading by journalist May Anne Cacdac, editor-in-chief of Sun.Star Baguio, some notes on Baguio war history based on the writings, memoirs, reports and recollections of the veterans, all members of the 66th Infantry guerrilla unit who, together with the 33rd and 37th Infantry Divisions of the US Army, liberated Baguio on April 27, 1945 through a three-pronged attack and a fourth serving as a blocking force.

Among the members of the 66th were former OIC-city mayo Francisco Paraan and his brother, the late lawyer Ricardo, former city vice-mayor Sinforoso Fangonil, Ibaloy patriarch and former city councilor Eugene Pucay Sr., Lt. Tomas Smith, Lt. Pedro Gardingan, Lt. Victor Fianza, Sgt. Florencio Esteban, Cpl. Raymundo Gadgad, Lt. Antino Carantes and Sgt. Adriano Carantes.
They were led by Major Bado Dangwa and Maj. Dennis Molintas who both eventually became governors of Benguet province.

The 1st Battalion of the 66th based in Camp Utopia, Kapangan, Benguet, combined with the 129th Infantry Regiment of the 37th Infantry Division of the US Army that came up to Baguio via the Naguilian Rd. after fighting in the battle of Sablan and Irisan.

The 2nd Battalion of the 66th and 33rd Division of the U.S. Army made the second assault through Kennon Rd., Ansagan and Padcal in Tuba, with Sgt. Adriano Carantes and two other men did a Sgt. York feat by knocking out two machine gun nests that initially prevented their advance to Padcal.
The third strike force, composed of the 33rd Division o fthe IS Army and a small detachment of the 66th, moved upp along the Pugo/Taloy Rd., Asin Rd. and towards Mount Sto. Tomas, coming out of Tuba on April 26, now known as Tuba Liberation Day.

The 3rd Battalion of the 66th made up the fourth strike whose mission was to harass the retreating Japanese soldiers passing through the Halsema Highway. The guerrillas eventually moved down to Bacnotan, La Union and joined the third strike force that came up through what is now the Marcos Highway.

Councilor Peter Fianza, chair of the Liberation Day program, stressed the bravery and heroism of members of the 66th who fought in Bataan was noted in an article in the Feb. 23, 1942 issue of the New York Times which said: “Hampered by the dense undergrowth and lost in the confusing maze of bamboo thickets, vines and creepers, the tankers would have been impotent had it not been for the aid of the Igorot troops of Maj. Duisterhof’s 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry. Hoisted to the top of the tanks where they were exposed to the fire of the enemy, these courageous tribesmen from north Luzon chopped away the entangling foliage with their bolos and served as eyes for the American tankers. From their position atop the tanks they fired at the enemy with pistols while guiding the drivers with sticks.” (Ramon Dacawi)

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on April 26, 2014.

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